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Poké restaurant scheduled to open on Ninth Street in November

<p>Poke, a raw fish salad popular in Hawaii, will be one of the main features of a new Durham eatery.&nbsp;</p>

Poke, a raw fish salad popular in Hawaii, will be one of the main features of a new Durham eatery. 

A Duke alum is launching a new restaurant that will bring the West Coast a little closer to Ninth Street.

ZenFish, which is set to open in the Solis Ninth Street mixed-use community development in November, will serve a variety of Pacific Coast-style options ranging from sushi burritos to poké, a popular raw fish salad dish in Hawaii. Owner Janet Lee, Fuqua '12, noted that the restaurant will aim to use local ingredients and provide a healthy, quick dining option for busy Duke students.

“When I was a student, I realized how hard it was with the little time you have between studying and going to all your activities to grab something that’s fast to eat and also healthy for you," Lee said.  "It’s very rare that I had the opportunity or the time to sit down to eat a full lunch or a full dinner, while poké on the other hand is pretty much grab and go.”

Lee noted that one of the restaurant’s feature dishes will be The Grateful Burrito—a sushi burrito filled with tuna, salmon, green onion, cucumber and a sriracha aioli sauce. ZenFish will offer indoor and outdoor dine-in seating as well as takeout. Although Lee explained that there are not yet plans to make ZenFish a merchants-on-points vendor, she said she plans to offer special deals to Duke students.  

Junior Sarah Turner said that she would take advantage of the new restaurant. 

"I've actually never had poke, but would I would 100 percent try it were a poke restaurant to come to Durham," she said.

Although junior Diane Hadley said that she does not like eating fish, she noted that she welcomes the addition.

"I like when new stuff opens because I feel like it makes campus vibes happier, like when everyone found out a Waffle House is opening on Ninth Street," she said. 

Lee noted that she is focused on building her brand in Durham and creating a sustainable business model that unites local businesses with her restaurant. To achieve this, many of her ingredients will come from local farmers in Durham. In addition, central furniture pieces for the restaurant are being built by Bull City Designs.

Sustainability is also a focus for ZenFish, Lee said, noting that the restaurant will partner with a local compost company called Food FWD to ensure that the food waste is composted rather than sent to a landfill. She said the compost company aligns well with her business model to create a restaurant that works alongside other Durham businesses for the well-being of the greater community.

Although its Ninth Street locale will be the first location for ZenFish, Lee said she has plans to eventually grow the business beyond Ninth Street. Her future goals include expanding the restaurant throughout the Carolinas. However, Lee noted that her business model right now involves focusing on establishing a Durham connection and donating a portion of the restaurant’s proceeds to charity.

“Durham is my heart," Lee said. “I want to bring the community together while also giving back to the community."


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